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Duke Dogs Albany, 73-61

(Links for this game are here)

It was a good opening match for Duke as Albany tested the Devils, but not enough to cause any serious worry.

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To be sure, there are things to work on, mostly defensively: Duke, usually pretty conscientious about the three point line, let Albany hit 60%. Since they were just 36.5% overall, that's clearly the difference (Duke was 4-11 from the bonusphere and 58.7% overall).

Most of the damage was done by four players - Jacob Iati (4-9 and 3-4 and 4-4 on foul shots, Sam Rowley (10 points, 3-9), Mike Black (10 points, 3-11) and Peter Hooley (13 points, 3-7).

As we said, Albany pushed but they couldn't really get closer than 10, in large part due to Mason Plumlee.

Although they periodically pushed Plumlee in places he didn't want to be, for the most part, he was where Duke went when they needed a key shot. He finished with 23 points and nine boards.

Seth Curry finished with 26 and as the year goes on, his shots are falling into two groups: beautiful rainbow jumpers and deceptive shots near the basket. Like Plumlee, he hit several of what we might call discouragement shots: as they crept closer, Curry pushed them back with a particularly demoralizing J here, a disconcerting drive there. It's remarkable really how much he's improved this year despite a chronic injury.

Curry and Plumlee together put Duke within 11 points of Albany's total. When you look at it that way, a win by the Danes would have been very impressive.

Ryan Kelly finished with eight points, six boards and two blocks while Rasheed Sulaimon added seven and Quinn Cook four points and 11 assists. Tyler Thornton tossed in five off the bench.

All in all it wasn't a brilliant performance but certainly a solid one. And if you want to look at what might be the best harbinger, look at the play of Kelly. No, not the 3-8 shooting. Shooting, even for the best marksman, runs hot and cold.

What was great though was his overall court awareness. He was credited with two blocks; neither one was a typical block. Both required a different level of timing and concentration.

He was like that on defense, too, diving after loose balls, cutting guys off and scrambling back - it was one of Kelly's better performances since coming back from injury.

If they can make it through their second game, Duke gets the better part of a week to continue to working on things. Considering they had to stop and rebuild, then stop and rebuild again, as Kelly left and returned, things are going pretty well.

We'll have more on this game later tonight; our opportunities to post this afternoon are a bit more limited.